Marcos prods NGCP to address energy woes in Western Visayas

By John Noel E. Herrera

President Ferdinand “Bong-bong” Marcos Jr. urged the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to address the problems in the Visayas grid that resulted in massive blackouts in Western Visayas.

The President told NGCP, which operates the transmission grid, to be transparent and to continuously update local officials, distribution utilities, power generators, and the Department of Energy (DOE) of the status of the Visayas grid on a regular basis, according to Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Jr.

“Ang siling sang Presidente sa NGCP that you should constantly update the public and all the stakeholders about the status of the grid. Importante ini so that we can anticipate, makapreparar kita kag makapangaman kita,” Defensor said in an interview with Aksyon Radyo Iloilo.

The governor disclosed that the President instructed the NGCP to make sure that massive blackouts in the grid will not happen again by “synchronizing the protection relays of transmission, generation and distribution in the next two weeks.”

Marcos also stressed that the NGCP should finish the third stage of the Cebu-Negros-Panay backbone project (CNP3) which involves linking Negros and Cebu by laying an overhead line from Bacolod City to Toledo City, Cebu via a submarine cable.

The CNP project involves the construction of a 238 km long circuit, 230kV capacity transmission line linking the three islands of Cebu, Negros, and Panay. This also includes the expansion of the Barotac Viejo substation, the E.B. Magalona cable terminal station and the Bacolod substation.

The project aims to expand the grid’s capacity to accommodate and transmit more electricity from power generators in the region to distribution utilities and electric cooperatives.

Aside from these measures, Defensor said Marcos also told NGCP to “review the reliability of each Visayas sub-grid and fast-track the signing of the Ancillary Service Procurement Agreement with the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC).

The ancillary services support the transmission of power from generators to consumers to maintain reliable operations and are necessary to manage power fluctuations.

In March 2023, NGCP warned of possible power interruptions after ERC denied its plea to extend its month-to-month ancillary service agreements while the competitive selection process is ongoing.

The ERC turned down NGCP’s request after the latter’s acceptance and opening of bids for ancillary services (AS) on March 14, 15, and 16, 2023 for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao.

“Many of NGCP’s AS agreements have expired. We have resorted to month-to-month extensions of our existing agreements to ensure the sufficiency of services while the procurement process is ongoing,” the NGCP said in a statement.

“With ERC’s denial of this interim arrangement, our hands are tied. The Philippine Transmission Grid shall be vulnerable to power interruptions resulting from an artificial lack of AS. Without an existing ASPA, NGCP cannot nominate power plants to provide the critical services.”

NGCP eyes to formally award contracts to winning bidders “no later than April 18, 2023” but only after the ERC approves the Ancillary Services Procurement Agreements resulting from the selection process.

The grid operator said a provisional approval for the new ASPAs “may not be expected earlier than June 2023.”

“We have always conducted the procurement of AS with good faith, with the best services for the least cost as a primary motivating factor. We have done much to improve the procurement process, but above all else, we must be able to provide these services,” the NGCP said.

“With this disappointing development, this leaves us with no other option. If we sign interim extensions, we expect the ERC to issue us yet another show-cause order. If we do not, we will be unnecessarily subjecting consumers connected to the grid to avoidable and damaging fluctuations or worse, interruptions,” it continued.

Meanwhile, Defensor said that he would convene the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Provincial Civil Defense Cluster to act on the “instructions and information critical to the immediate resolution of the power crisis.”

“Ang problema makita mo nga systemic. Power backbone mismo ang kinahanglan naton nga i-develop nga dapat naga-upod siya sa aton development. Ang Western Visayas is pinakamataas kita nga gross domestic product sa Pilipinas, ti kuryente ang kinahanglan mo sina,” Defensor added.

Meanwhile, Iloilo City Mayor Jerry P. Trenas thanked the President as he urged the NGCP to fast-track “their improvement works on the transmission lines from Cebu to Negros and from Negros to Panay as this will ensure continuous transmission of electricity in the region and interconnectivity.”

The NGCP earlier explained that a system disturbance caused power outages across the region last April 27, 2023.

On April 28, another blackout was experienced in the region as NGCP monitored another system disturbance that affected the Visayas grid.

While power is back in the majority of Panay, Guimaras and Negros on April 30.